With air strikes, France says IS more important than Assad

A Dassault Mirage 2000D jet fighter at the Nancy Air Base in Thuilley-aux-Groseilles. 

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Need to know:

It would seem Assad is no longer France's No. 1 priority. The fight against the Islamic State trumps everything else.

On Sunday, France announced that it had launched its first air strikes against IS in Syria in an act of "self-defense" to stop to the militant group from carrying out attacks inside France. French planes destroyed a training camp in the eastern town of Deir al-Zour.

France, like the UK, has previously confined air strikes against IS to Iraqi airspace, saying international law prevented it from attacking targets in Syria and that it would do nothing, however indirect, to help the Assad government.

That was then. France now says it has evidence that IS planned terror attacks against it from Syria — making air strikes against the militants legitimate under UN rules on self-defense.

But what are these air strikes really going to accomplish? Analysts are skeptical. France is mainly seeking to ease domestic political pressure, they say, and remain relevant abroad in the latest scramble for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

"To say that we will prevent terrorist attacks in France thanks to air strikes in Syria is, and I am weighing my words, absolute bullshit," said Eric Denece, the director of the French intelligence think-tank CF2R. 

"When the Americans carry out thousands of strikes ... it can have a limited impact. But for France in Syria, it will only be a few symbolic strikes. It is gesticulation, smoke and mirrors to deceive the public."

Want to know:

Ask any of the weary travelers at Vienna’s Westbahnhof train station where they are headed and the answer will almost always be: "To Germany, of course." 

Of course. But their ready answer deserves some scrutiny. If safety is the main concern for these refugees, why are they then passing up that which is offered in other European countries along the way? Why so determined to get to Germany?

The answer is complex and varies from person to person, but Merkel's welcoming stance on migrants — along with generous quotas and job opportunties — clearly has something to do with it. As does Hungary's opposite stance — along with its fences, threats of arrest and bellicose language — on the other side of Europe. 

But even before the Syrian war, Germany was a leading destination for Syrians. GlobalPost's Richard Hall reports on Germany's glowing haze, beckoning migrants even if they have no idea what they will do once they get there.

Strange but true:

Olympics and human excrement. Two words (OK, three) that you may never have thought would go together in a sentence. Until Rio. 

Last week, we reported on two crazy statistics that illustrate just how bad Rio’s water pollution has become. This weekend, we thought we’d show you some pics.

GlobalPost took a quick tour around Guanabara bay, starting in the Marina da Gloria, right in the heart of the city, which is the main staging ground for the Olympic sailing events. We didn’t have to wait long to see some disgusting stuff.

Here is a floating pile of what looked, and smelled, exactly like human excrement.

Let the games begin.